From Richard Lichty emeritus at UMN Duluth, by way of Crooked Timber, (comment 2) an explanation of the world according to Thorstein Veblen, the man who created the Theory of the Leisure Class and Conspicuous Consumption, providing much intellectual framework with which we today parse the world.
TV nailed it about the time Arrhenius was explaining the Greenhouse Effect
Veblen identified two different behavioral traits in history: the trait of workmanship and the predatory trait (the tendency to exploit and plunder). Workmanship includes such things as parenting and "idle curiosity" in addition to the more usual use of the term - creativity. It is out of this trait that advances in civilization stems. It is also out of this trait from which the instinct for cooperation stems.
The predatory instinct is what made early societies revere the strong. The booty from victory at war, including slaves, ears, scalps, etc., were often displayed by the mightiest of warriors. In other systems, the instinct might be less obvious - but it always leads to sexism, racism, subjugation, and exploitation. If this instinct is hidden in society, it is usually hidden behind sportsmanship and ceremonialism. . .
Veblen asserted that the businessperson's desire for pecuniary gain would cause him/her to lose any interest in producing things. Buying and selling companies, closing and opening companies, in short, financial wheeling and dealing would take precedence over production. Absentee ownership would become the pinnacle of success. The absentee owner spends his/her time with accountants, lawyers, stockbrokers, advisors, but not with the engineers. The engineers would keep production going for the business leaders so that at least something will be produced.UPDATE: Hank delivers the experimental evidence in the comments
"New research suggests that the upper classes are more likely to behave dishonorably than those lower on the economic spectrum. The rich are more likely to cheat, steal, and even disobey traffic laws than those with less money and power (abstract).Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior by K. Piff, Daniel M. Stancato, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton and Dacher Keltner
PNAS February 27, 2012
Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.Galt is evil